You hear it all the time now – build relationships, develop a strong network and connect with other professionals online – but what are you supposed to do with all of these new connections? Leverage these relationships to reach success.
What people fail to tell you is that it’s not just about building relationships but it’s about really getting to know the people in your professional networks and maintaining those relationships. Only then can you take advantage of that network to help you grow and develop your career. This is easier said than done. It requires a lot of time and effort.
Understand the People in Your Network
Get to know the people you’ve connected with – beyond their name, job title and place of work. Find out what their strengths and obstacles are so you can leverage their strengths and perhaps, help them overcome their struggles (it’s a two-way street).
Professional development is much more than figuring out what the next job in your career will be. If you know the strengths of each of your connections, you’ll be able to easily reach out to the right people at the right time, and it’s often when you least expect that you will need them. You may want to leverage their expertise for a project you’re working on or when you’re trying to find a specific resource or learning opportunity.
Maintain Your Relationships
In order to be successful, you need to turn the connections you make into a network of long-term relationships. This requires continuously reaching out to people, learning about what they’re working on and keeping them posted on what you’re working on. This can be as simple as a quick LinkedIn message once in a while for some connections or it can be a regular phone call or coffee break for your closer relationships.
Strong relationships are easier to keep up with but if you have a difficult time maintaining some of your other relationships, try scheduling them into your calendar. Place a reminder for every four months or so to take five minutes out of your day and write them a message. How awkward would it be to ask for something, even advice, from someone you’ve lost touch with? They may not even remember you.
Take Advantage of Your Connections
Taking advantage of your connections does not indicate a one-way relationship where you take and never give. You’ll also benefit from helping others. It all goes back to the first point about understanding the people in your network.
When you are working on a project you need guidance on or when you really are ready to make that next step in your career, you’ll know exactly who to reach out to for what because you’ve taken the time to get to know the people you’ve met and develop a true relationship with them.
Perhaps, you’re not even looking for a job for yourself but rather, you’re in a fortunate position and are looking to hire a strong team of professionals. Leverage the relationships you’ve already built to find the best talent. It might not be them but other people they know.
If you stop thinking of your connections as people just to “have” in your network and start building relationships with them and staying connected with them, you’ll be able to better leverage them to reach success in your current career or future career.